Soldiers came upon a North Korean man wearing a wetsuit and flippers walking down a road in South Korea on Tuesday. It was "the second embarrassing breach for the South Korean military's border security in recent months" after a North Korean defector traversed the Demilitarized Zone, reaching a half-mile south of the border, in November, the New York Times reports. In this case, the man in his 20s reportedly swam across the maritime border between North and South Korea and crawled through a drain beneath a beachside barbed-wire fence meant to block infiltrators, military officials said Wednesday, per the Times. South Korean soldiers ultimately found the man—who officials say may be a defector—walking south of the DMZ in a zone where travel requires a military permit.
"Our military did not take appropriate actions, although the man had been detected in its surveillance system several times since coming ashore," the military said. He was spotted around 4:20am Tuesday but wasn't captured for another three hours, the Times reports. He was still wearing his wetsuit and flippers when captured near the coastal town of Goseong, per the BBC. South Korea's Joint Chief of Staffs is looking into the security breach and the suspected defector. "We're conducting an investigation into details, including how he had come down and whether he wished to defect," it said. About 200 North Koreans defected to the South last year, an all-time low attributed to North Korea's coronavirus lockdowns, reports Al Jazeera. Most reached the South through China and other countries. (Read more South Korea stories.)